A perennial sedge of eastern North America, the drooping sedge (Carex prasina) grows in dense clumps in wet woodland areas (2) (3) (4) (5). Its slender stems, or ‘culms’, are usually green with a brownish or purplish base, and are triangular in cross-section (2) (4) (6) (7) (8). The surface of the stem is generally smooth, but is more roughened near the tip (2) (4) (6) (7).
Each of the drooping sedge’s stems bears up to five long, smooth, pale green leaves, which measure up to four to six millimetres in width (2) (4) (8). The part of the leaf that wraps around the stem, known as the ‘sheath’, may be slightly pink or purplish (2) (4).
Like other sedges (Cyperaceae species), the drooping sedge has very small, inconspicuous flowers (9) which are borne in clusters on long, narrow, cylindrical ‘spikes’. Small groups of spikes make up an inflorescence. In the drooping sedge, the outermost spike of an inflorescence has a short stalk and usually only bears male flowers, although it may sometimes have female flowers at the tip. The rest of the inflorescence consists of two to four longer side spikes, which are pale green, measure up to six centimetres in length, and contain only female flowers (2) (4) (6) (7) (8). These ‘female’ spikes grow on longer stalks and have a characteristic drooping appearance (2) (4) (6) (7), giving the drooping sedge its common name.
This species produces dry, single-seeded fruits known as ‘achenes’, which are pale brown, up to two millimetres long, and somewhat triangular in shape (2) (4) (6). As in other Carex species, each achene is enclosed within a sac-like structure known as the ‘perigynium’. In the drooping sedge, the perigynium is quite slender, oval, and triangular in cross section, and it tapers into a long, often curved point at the top (2) (4) (6) (7) (8). Each ‘female’ spike bears around 25 to 50 perigynia (2) (4).
- Carex miliacea, Carex subcompressa, Olamblis miliacea.
- Stem length: up to 80 cm (2)
Drooping sedge biology
Very little information is available on the biology of the drooping sedge. Like other members of the Cyperacaeae family, it produces separate male and female flowers (9), which appear between May and June (4) (6). The drooping sedge fruits from late spring to summer (2) (3), and its seeds are often eaten by waterfowl (6).
Like other sedges, the drooping sedge is a perennial species, and is able to produce new shoots from creeping underground stems known as ‘rhizomes’ (4) (9).
Drooping sedge range
The drooping sedge is found in eastern North America, from Quebec to Ontario in Canada, south to Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina in the United States, and west to Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois and Wisconsin, U.S. (2) (3) (4) (7).
Species with a similar range
Drooping sedge habitat
The drooping sedge usually grows in wet, marshy woodland, moist thicket, or along the banks of streams (2) (5) (6) (7) (8).
Species found in a similar habitat
Drooping sedge status
The drooping sedge has yet to be classified by the IUCN.
Drooping sedge threats
The drooping sedge is listed as ‘Threatened’ in Illinois and Wisconsin (3) (5). However, very little is known about its conservation status and the threats it faces, and this species has yet to be assessed by the IUCN (10).
Drooping sedge conservation
There are no known specific conservation measures currently in place for the drooping sedge. Where this species grows near forested areas, it has been recommended that forestry activities that change the water table should be avoided (5).
Find out more
Find out more about the drooping sedge:
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- A simple single-seeded fruit that falls from the plant in one piece. Achenes usually in occur in clusters.
- The reproductive shoot of a plant, which bears a group or cluster of flowers.
- A plant that normally lives for more than two seasons. After an initial period, the plant produces flowers once a year.
- An underground, horizontal plant stem that produces roots and shoots.
Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) (July, 2011)
Flora of North America - Carex prasina (July, 2011)
USDA PLANTS Database - Drooping sedge, Carex prasina (July, 2011)
Mohlenbrock, R.H. (2011) The Illustrated Flora of Illinois. Sedges: Carex. Second Edition. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, Illinois.
Kopitzke, D.A. and Sweeney, J.M. (2000) Threatened and Endangered Species in Forests of Wisconsin: A Guide to Assist with Forestry Activities. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, Wisconsin. Available at:
Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center: Northeast Wetland Flora - Drooping sedge, Carex prasina (July, 2011)
Britton, N.L. and Brown, A. (1913) An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions - from Newfoundland to the Parallel of the Southern Boundary of Virginia, and from the Atlantic Ocean westward to the 102D Meridian. Volume 1. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York.
Rhoads, A.F. and Block, T.A. (2007) The Plants of Pennsylvania: An Illustrated Manual. Second Edition. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Heywood, V.H. (1978) Flowering Plants of the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
IUCN Red List (July, 2011)